Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Will We End Up Going Back To Church?

In Church, Life on January 2, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Life is fairly exciting after leaving a dogmatic Christian religion and discovering freedom. While it might include somewhat of a “dark night of the soul,” a whole new world opens up to us and dead theologies all of a sudden take on a new life of their own. It’s great.

But what about when this novelty wears off? After discovering new beliefs, new friends, new laughter and new alcoholic beverages… and we get settled in, then what happens? For me, I surprisingly found myself up against a wall of apathy. You get a new toy, enjoy it for a while and then… well, so what. King Solomon’s infamous line, “All is vanity” started to become a reality for me.

I apologize if this might burst anyone’s current bubble, but you know I’ve learned that living in honesty beats the slavery of others’ opinions… no matter what that honesty is about. Admitting I might have been wrong about something, or that my life isn’t much different from the religious one is something that comes a lot easier for me now.

But I don’t think I made a wrong decision or took a wrong turn somewhere. I think that apathy is a natural part of the life cycle. And even if I was mistaken about something, who cares? It is what it is and like any other part of my journey, I’m ready to tackle this challenging adventure as well.

So what does this mean? I don’t like feeling apathetic, or unexcited, especially when the world is full of exciting beauty in and all around me. What’s going on with me exactly? What kind of a symptom is this emotion? I was immediately tempted to message my friend Stacey who always has a good answer for me (and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is) but then I caught myself and thought, “The only person who could answer this question might be… me.”

I’ve learned to face my unpleasant emotions and feel them, examine them, talk to them, or whatever I have to do to engage my own being. I’d rather face pain than run from it or distract myself; otherwise, it will only keep showing up, and always with some bigger bully friends the next time.

And like always, facing things head on is where I found my answer as well as my dilemma.

So I got the memo, or the vision for the next phase of my pilgrim’s progress after freedom, or life in the wild. And it is, at least in my case, discipline.

Ouch. If anyone has spent any time listening to church sermons, we know this word reeks of manipulative religion. But I’ve got a new definition for it. Discipline is no longer doing things we don’t want to do only because we have to do them. Discipline is working hard at something we want to do.

After a break from all the law and commandments, and some much needed rest, it’s time to head back into the rockery, my friends. And before you find yourself wallowing in a dark corner, rocking back and forth saying, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t…” let me just remind you that not only do you not have to go, your future rockery might be a workplace you have not yet encountered. So let’s keep an open mind here.

Our individual path is through the individual self and I might even presume to say it is through the individual heart. Remember when the missionary families would stand up on stage at your church while your pastor prayed over them and then took a special offering for them? And do you remember saying to yourself, “Yeah sure, God called you to the Bahamas where you get to go convert everyone to your own opinion. Who wouldn’t? Maybe you can work like the rest of us and earn your own vacation funds.”

I think if we dig deep enough, we’ll find some truth wrapped in that religious missionary facade. Maybe God really does lead us or speak to us through our heart and desires. I am beginning to think that the Spirit of truth, and our heart speaks the same language. That’s where communication, if we can call it that, takes place.

This is also where we discover the talents, drives, and endowments that make us unique from the rest of the world. And what might mean discipline for one person will mean something else for another.

G.K. Chesterton, an author who was deeply influential in my own religious breakaway is a good example. He was notorious for being big, as in fat. He was also a slob and commonly forgot where he was supposed to be, when he was supposed to be there. But he was brilliant. He had a genius mind and he easily understood truths that the crowds longed to understand themselves.

I would say that Chesterton was disciplined. And he was disciplined in the area he was called and gifted. He was so disciplined that he had to forsake the occupations in which he was not called.

The most interesting thing to me is that later in life, Chesterton aligned his devotion to the Catholic Church. I couldn’t believe it when I read this part of his life story. I thought, “Dude, you’ve been enlightened. Why in the world are you going back there?” I could understand fulfilling speaking engagements at churches, but to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church and embrace its doctrines as well?

It is finally starting to make some sense to me now as I experience my own cyclical journey. Our newfound understanding and skills need to be challenged, continuously. When we find ourselves in a rut, and we begin to wither and painfully rot, it’s time to cut off the decay so we can move on. I believe the human was not meant to die, but to live, which means to be consistently transformed.

This does not necessarily mean we must go back into the violence we escaped, but only that, after we have been strengthened, and have rested, it’s time to go out looking for a new personal dragon to slay.

If we never want to go back to church, this could mean that we are either not ready for it yet, or it’s not where we are supposed to be. It’s not our niche, calling, gift, ministry… or whatever you prefer to call it. That door is shut at this moment and we need to leave it shut.

But by all means, we need to keep moving forward – even if this implies a start of the merry-go-round rendezvous all over again, except this time armed with an entirely different perspective and a lot more know-how. It’s easy to discover a new belief, start a new ministry and then camp out there, especially if it helps a lot of other people who are discovering it themselves for the first time. But how is this any different than a church denomination that eventually runs out of business by the young, emerging church down the street?

This trap will bring us to boredom, meaninglessness… apathy, and that is when it’s time to get the memo for the next step. This might mean forsaking some security systems, and don’t worry, I won’t dare to touch those because I know how defensive we can be about them. But don’t forget that we’ve done it before. We left the security of the church system and discovered heaven. Maybe now it’s time to leave heaven, and discover the next level of eternal bliss.

For me, I won’t be going back to church, at least not at this time. But I won’t lie. I have fears and a lot of unanswered questions. It feels like I need to break through the standard social wall once again, as well as bravely face some preconceived ideas I’ve held for far too long… I don’t really know what this means exactly. I am still discovering my discipline. Even after, my life might not look much different from the outside. I only know that the apathy is beginning to lift.

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